Voter Restrictions Have Deep History in TexasRoundup
tags: Texas, political history, democracy, Race, voting rights, Womens Suffrage, voter restrictions
Laurie B. Green is an associate professor of history and a faculty affiliate in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
One hundred years ago, Congress approved the 19th Amendment, which prohibited the denial or limitation of voting rights “on account of sex.”
The agonizing, 14-month struggle by suffragists to get three-quarters of the states to ratify the amendment, especially its dramatic culmination in the Tennessee statehouse, has garnered much attention. But it may come as a surprise that Texas, a state that has become notorious nationwide for passing some of the most restrictive voting legislation, ratified the amendment in just 14 days.
Texas’ speedy ratification of the 19th Amendment represents a beacon for women’s political power in the U.S., but a critical assessment of the process it took to win it tells us far more about today’s political atmosphere and cautions us to compare the marketing of voting rights laws with their actual implications.
In a one-party state like Texas, the primaries were the elections that mattered, and 1918 marked the first time women could participate — thanks, in part, to campaigning by thousands of members of the all-white Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA).
Not all women got the chance to vote, however. Despite efforts by black activists, including suffragists, Texas’ all-white primary system trumped women’s newly won right nearly everywhere in the state. Even still, the support from TESA secured the election of a pro-suffrage governor, William Hobby, and persuaded him to introduce an equal suffrage amendment to the Texas Constitution.
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